Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa (Penguin Books, 2016)
Interviewed by Roni Mikel-Arieli, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Jewish
History and Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and
researcher in the European Research Council project, APARTHEID-STOPS.
Growing up in Port Elizabeth, over the 1960s and the 1970s, Steven Robins recalls an old photo of three unknown women in the dining room of his childhood home. It never occurred to him that, decades later, he would embark on a journey in a quest to uncover the story of these women. In his book, Letters of Stone, Steven tracks the lives and fates of the Robinski family, in Southern Africa, Berlin, Riga and Auschwitz. The volume also explores the worldwide rise of eugenics and racial science before the onset of the Second World War, which justified the murder of Jews by the Nazis, and which contributed to the decision by South Africa as well as other countries to close their doors to Jewish refugees. The book combines Steven’s moving personal narrative with insightful reflections on the discipline of anthropology within which he works. It paints an unforgettable picture of a family forced to negotiate increasingly calamitous circumstances.
Steven Robins is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa. He has published on a wide range of topics including the politics of land, development and identity in Zimbabwe and South Africa; the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC); urban studies and most recently on citizenship and governance.